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New Security Holes

By Steve Jones,

One of the big advertising campaigns of 2011 was the Apple campaign that centered around Siri. This is a voice recognition feature of the iPhone 4S that allows you to manage many of your phone interactions by speaking instead of touch interactions. There are a whole series of commercials about Siri and some rather funny parodies (NSFW). I used Siri briefly on my iPhone 4 before the 4S launch and I didn't like the interaction, but my wife loves it.

Apparently, however, IBM doesn't like the idea of Siri being used inside of the company. IBM's CIO has banned the use of the voice recognition because the audio and translation are not done on the phone, but rather sent to a series of servers controlled by another company. Apple is ultimately responsible, but there are other companies who a subcontracted for pieces of the whole process. There is a potential security hole, especially with a company like IBM that is involved in research and new technical products that might compete with Apple.

I have to admit this is a data security hole I never expected to encounter. It's a valid concern, as your location, the content of your message, which might be an appointment or reminder to yourself, could be mined and used by Apple. As more companies use voice recognition, or even other types of interactions that might require data processing at a remote location.

Ultimately I think that we can't let the market work out the way that our privacy should be handled. I don't think companies will do a good job of protecting the individuals' or business partners' interests. Until there is a good framework in place, anyone that uses third party libraries for processing things like voice recognition ought to be concerned over the data security that is offered as part of the service.

Steve Jones


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